BIRMINGHAM: Gao Huan may be a late bloomer in the China national team, but he believes he is ready to fight for a place in the multi-talented squad, especially with the Thomas Cup coming up in May.
The 24-year-old was part of the Chinese team that bagged the team gold at the World Junior Championships in 2007 and 2008.
He was also a silver medallist at the World University Games last year losing to South Korea’s Hong Ji-hoon.
And Gao Huan, who was once compared to Lin Dan during his junior days, is ready to step up and fill the void as China seeks a 10th Thomas Cup crown.
Although the world No. 44 lost out in the second round of the All-England, to compatriot Wang Zhengming 19-21, 17-21, it was his attacking displays that left a lasting impression.
The young shuttler came through the qualifiers and put up a memorable performance in shocking third seed Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia in the first round.
“I’m considered a slow starter in the national team because there are so many players back home and sometimes you just have to work hard and wait for the opportunities,” said Gao Huan.
“Compared to some of the other players from my generation, I did not have the most outstanding junior career.
“Also, I had some injuries to worry about and that set me back a little.
“But I’m definitely happy with the way I am playing and I know I can just get better.
“China will be looking to win the Thomas Cup this year, and I may be ranked further down, but I am definitely ready to step up and fight for a place.”
With Du Pengyu, who lost in the first round of the All-England, and Zhengming both struggling to hit top form, China only have world No. 2 Chen Long as a reliable option.
Gao Huan’s impressive offensive arsenal will certainly be a big addition, but first, there are three more higher ranked shuttlers – Xue Song (No. 28), Chen Yuekun (No. 29) and Tian Houwei (No. 32) to overcome as they are also vying for a place in that team.
Plus, speculation is rife that Lin Dan could make a comeback at the prestigious team event.